Protected island: yes
Terrestrial protection status: natural park on the south-western coasts; biosphere reserve
Marine protection status: marine part included in the natural park; biosphere reserve
Principe Island, located in the Gulf of Guinea, is part of the Sao Tome and Principe archipelago.
It is characterized by a rich and diverse biodiversity (cetaceans, molluscs, birds, tropical rainforest, etc.).
The local population lives mainly from fishing and agriculture. One of the challenges of the island is therefore the preservation of the fishery resources from waste pollution in order to allow the inhabitants to maintain their means of subsistence.
The island of Principe belongs to the archipelago of Sao Tome & Principe. It is one of the three islands of volcanic origin in the Gulf of Guinea and the oldest of this group, having been formed 31 million years ago. They are located 300 km from the Gabonese coast.
The north of the island is rather flat and the south is steep, with a mountain range made up of several phonolithic peaks between 500 and 948 m above sea level, dotted with islets of primary jungle. The geomorphological and terrain differences between the two areas of the island influence the distribution of the different ecosystems of the island.
The island is connected to the capital Sao Tome by a daily flight and by boat on a more irregular basis.
The population density is lower than for the whole country (52hab / km² against 200 for the country), the average age is also higher (22 years in Principe against 16) and the unemployment rate is lower (7.5% at Principe against 20.5 for the whole country).
There is a historic built heritage, a legacy of the island’s colonial past, as well as an important cultural heritage: music, dance, gastronomy, religious events, etc.
The colonial buildings of the 17th century of Santo Antonio, as well as the “roças”, old farms scattered around the island constituting veritable small towns, are likely to be valued within ecotourism initiatives. The Principe Cultural Center hosts numerous research projects in the fields of anthropology, literature, ethnography and archeology.
Fishing and agriculture are the main activities. Fishing remains mainly for consumption on the island (there is no cold chain).
Agricultural activities are mainly subsistence activities, with the surplus being sold on local markets. On Principe, we cultivate cocoa, coffee, coconut, copra and fruits. There are a few processed products, such as dried fish, fried bananas, palm wine, and “cacharamba” (local cane rum).
Tourism development is limited, mainly in the area of the capital Santo Antonio.
The island is home to a dense tropical rainforest, qualified as a West African biodiversity refuge, due to the value and diversity of the plant species and ecosystems that make it up (primary tropical forest, shady forest, mangroves , coastal zones, riparian habitats of the plains). The forest of Sao Tome is considered among the 200 most important ecoregions in the world in terms of biodiversity.
A high rate of endemism is observed for fauna and flora, in particular concerning vascular plants, insects (Carabidea and Cerambycidea), terrestrial molluscs, birds, reptiles and bats.
The marine fauna is also exceptionally rich and varied: fish, cetaceans, marine turtles, molluscs, corals, crustaceans and echinoderms.
In addition, the surrounding islets such as Bom Bom islet and Boné de Joquéi islet are home to a wide variety of birds.
From an environmental point of view, Principe must now face the uncontrolled extraction of sand on the coast, which accelerates coastal erosion and endangers biodiversity as much as all human activities present on the coasts.
In addition, the management of waste, and in particular plastic bottles, is crucial since it is very quickly discharged into the sea by rainwater. An awareness campaign and distribution of aluminum bottles, at the initiative of local actors with the support of UNESCO, has already taken place but it is not sufficient to completely stop the discharge of waste into the ocean.